Lesbian questioning if she's bisexual

Dear Alice,

When I was a teenager, I thought I was straight. During college, I came to the realization that I was a lesbian. I am quite comfortable with identifying as a lesbian, but occasionally I find myself attracted to men. In my heart, I know that I am actually bisexual, but it really bugs me! Recently, I found a guy that I really would have liked to date, but I couldn't bring myself to do it because I was afraid of how it would look. People (myself included) always seem to think that bisexuals are really either just promiscuous or just tragically confused.

I am still primarily attracted to women (especially for long-term relationships), so should I just stick with being lesbian? Is it fair to date a man when it's likely that it won't work out? How do I get my friends and family to understand what being bisexual really means? More importantly, how do I get myself to understand what this means? What if I really AM tragically confused?

A Worried Bisexual Lesbian

Dear A Worried Bisexual Lesbian,

Bisexual people, unfortunately, deal with prejudices and stereotypes similar to the ones you mentioned — being promiscuous or confused about their sexual identity — from heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. Fortunately, your realizations about your own sexuality offer you the opportunity to move beyond those stereotypes and accept bisexuality for what it really is: one more equally valid expression of the complex world of human sexuality.

If you think back to when you were coming out as a lesbian in college, you will probably remember worrying about how it would look if you dated women, and if your friends and family knew that what they had assumed all along — that you were straight — wasn't true. Those concerns are similar to what you're writing about now. A major part of your concern is probably how lesbians and gay men you've counted on as allies will react to your new identity as a bisexual, given some of the prejudices faced by bisexuals in the gay and lesbian community. In a way, you're coming out all over again.

When you write that you were comfortable living as a lesbian, you probably mean that you have built supportive networks of friends and family that make dealing with homophobia in society more manageable. You will find that dealing with biphobia — those prejudices and stereotypes mentioned above — will require pretty much the same. You can't stop people from thinking things about you or how you express your sexuality; you can, however, decide how you will think about it.

Being a bisexual means something different for each bisexual individual, similar to how being straight or gay or lesbian means different things to different people. It sounds as though you are beginning to discover what bisexuality means for you; it may be a process that takes some time and it doesn't necessarily have a precise direction.

The best way to learn about the varied world of bisexuality is getting to know other bisexual people. You can get information on groups, meetings, and social events from your local gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community center by visiting the directory at the LGBT Community Centers web site. You may also want to check out the Bisexual Resource Center for links to additional online resources. 

Approaching every date as if it should lead to a long-term relationship could keep a person from ever dating anyone, however establishing that both parties share some fundamental mutual interest in hanging out is a necessary first step for a successful short- or long-term coupling. If dating a man is the next step on your path to self-understanding, it is an opportunity to embrace. There's no need to define yourself as a woman-only woman just yet — people of all orientations date and learn, you too can give yourself permission to explore your interests and enjoy the journey.

Last updated Jul 27, 2015
Originally published Aug 22, 2003

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